Benny Thomasson

Country Fiddling From the Big State

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There are several solo fiddle releases on this label that are out and out masterworks, and this is one of them. It is aptly titled, bringing to mind the many definitions of "big" Texans like to bring up, all of which suit Thomasson's music to a big T. Producer Charles Faurot begins his liner notes with a discussion of Thomasson's success in Texas fiddle contests. Apparently there are three major categories in these contests, and Thomasson is a regular winner in two of them, old-time tunes and Western swing. Both styles are represented here, but the latter might cause confusion for listeners wanting something with a Bob Wills feel. Remember, this is a solo fiddle record and Western swing becomes more of a state of mind, involving lots of improvisation. "In Western swing you try and fiddle yourself into a tight spot... and then get out of it," Faurot quotes one fiddler. Although it is hard to imagine a tight spot in the state of Texas, at least geographically, Thomasson has the ability to maneuver where he wants to with a gorgeous tone that owes part of its robust flavor to the tunings used. Tempo is also striking; Thomasson has a way of creating drive while keeping the basic beat relaxed. This is music that is big even by Texas standards. Most of the tunes are traditional, although the title of one is a link to a tradition many listeners would most likely rather forget. Perhaps those offended can pretend "Nigger in the Woodpile" is a rap tune. It would have been interesting to have had at least some information about the recording session.

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